Thursday, February 4, 2021

Remember that Launch Vehicle Turnaround Record?

It was just two weeks ago when SpaceX shattered the turnaround time for an orbital class vehicle, launching a booster with a 38 day turnaround, dropping the record from the 51 days they set just last summer.  They broke that record again with this morning's Starlink mission when booster B1060 launched with a 27 day turnaround.  It also marks the first time SpaceX has launched the same booster twice within "a month" - not a named calendar month, but the 30 days people colloquially refer to as a month. 

Something that's not getting as much recognition is that they've been working to expand their operating envelope - expanding the conditions the recovery ships can work in. 

Twitter exchange between Elon Musk and the Everyday Astronaut (a YouTube channel). 

There is much talk about whether the Biden (Ho Jo) administration will scuttle the space program.  Today, Borepatch linked to a story at the Washington Times that focused on the FAA delaying SN9's test flight for a couple of days as an indication that the administration is out to shut down the space program.  I think that's a bit far to leap.  I don't know how idiotic and anti-American the Ho Jo people really are ("very" is not a number), but if they're talking about shutting down Space Force and everything else, they're ceding the high ground to the Chicoms and putting us at an insurmountable disadvantage.  Nobody who knows the first thing about military history would ignore working in space.  To a first order approximation, that sounds like the Ho Jo gang.

The Artemis program is the glaring example to watch.  It was promoted by the Orange Man, so it's an object of hatred and to be destroyed.  On the other hand, the goal is to "put the first woman and the next man" on the moon, so that's pure identity politics, which is bread and butter to the left.  I can see them cancelling the program but I can also see them doing things to extract the maximum credit for it, sort of how they've taken credit for other things Trump did. 

Would the shut down SpaceX?  First off, SpaceX doesn't live or die on money.  Their contract for the Artemis program is the smallest one NASA cut and the only NASA money that's going to Starship.  If NASA dropped SpaceX to go back to Russia to put crews on the ISS, they're truly morons and NASA needs to be shut down, but to the best of my knowledge the only contracts SpaceX has with NASA are manned and unmanned cargo drone flights to the ISS.  Their income is from being the leading launch company in the world thanks to upending the world's cost structures with their self-landing boosters.  If the tried, they'd drive them in search of another country to work from.  It would slow down operations until they recovered, but I can imagine a guy like Musk would be welcome pretty much anywhere he wants to bring his billions.  

And just because it's a pretty picture, this morning's launch:


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  2. SpaceX continues to push the boundaries.

    The ChiCom iRocket failed bigly, again, and people are still calling the parent company a 'private venture.' Fools, what part of ChiCom and National Socialism (which is what the ChiComs are really seeming to be) don't people understand. Nobody does anything in Communist China without ChiCom approval, for long.

    Boeing seems to finally be getting their stuff together, too late and way too many dollars short.

    The Artemis program seems to be advancing.

    ULA is going on, thought their hopes are still pinned on the BE4 engine... but LockMart bought Aerojet Rockedyne so maybe there's a replacement for the BE4 on line.

    Virgin Galactic is doing the 'proof of concept' with both their Spaceship 2 and their plane-launched orbital.

    Everywhere the little guys are launching, everywhere, all exceeding Big Space at every turn.

    And then there's... Blue Origins... Ha. Haha. Hahahaha. Hahahahahahahahahaahahahhahahaha (snort) hahahahahahahahahhahahahhahahahaaaaaaa (wheeze)...

    Go SpaceX, go!

    1. I saw that ULA shipped their first Vulcan booster to the Cape for qualification testing - a wet dress rehearsal and probably static firing. AFAIK it's on the pad at LC-41 right now. This is the one that has Blue Origin BE-4 engines that aren't qualified for flight.

      I'm not sure how you qualify a rocket for flight with engines that aren't qualified, but it's their money.

  3. I heard about the regime's repudiation of the Space Force. My sense is that they may try to roll it back into the USAF as a repudiation of President Trump. I try to ignore the clown show of Jo/Ho and focus on what the Military Industrial Complex wants, because ultimately it is they and the oligarchs who actually run the country who will call the shots.

    1. That's a good summary.

      Because of that last thought about the Military Industrial Complex, I've been reluctant to think Ho Jo will flat out give the country to China and go home billionaires. Now, I can see them allowing Xi to milk the country dry, or drain the blood until the patient is ready to die, but not just give it away. I guess it's a question of which is the most profit for the most oligarchs.

  4. As to SpaceX and the FAA. Things were delayed a lot. Some say SpacteX wasnt totally playing by the rules. Elon ( allegedly ) replied, the 9 was such a continuation of the 8 and the changes in conditions and tests between the two so small they were shocked that the FAA had any questions or concerns at all. As to the landing, well, it took many , many crashes on the drone-ship platform before they got it right. Now they routinely land upright. Part2. Elon has been quoted as saying that the FAA is great in regards to commercial aircraft but work wayyyyyy to slowly in regards to spacecraft. They are used to NASA announcing launches weeks if not months in advance. In order to get to the moon and beyond to Mars in the time frame that SpaceX wants, they need to be doing launches weekly if not daily. They are gearing up production of test rockets so that they ( spacex) can meet those goals. They just need the FAA/Govt to keep up.
    With that all in mind, allegedly , Elon has purchased two large offshore capable oil platforms. The implication being if they wont keep up....he will move his launch site offshore if needed.

    1. The two platforms, Phobos and Deimos, are being modified as we speak. The intent is to allow Starship to launch and land near cities to allow Starship to be used as a transcontinental transport.

    2. I think another part of that idea is they can do tests without having to evacuate the island and pay to put all the Boca Chica Village residents up in a hotel.

      If nothing, they should have proven to the FAA that they're good enough at their navigation to have both SN8 and 9 hit on the landing pad and no danger to the residents.

    3. He still needs a "Launch License" from the FAA. No idea what BigGov would do if he told them to buzz off because he was launching from international waters. I would imagine they'd try and hit him with huge fines.

    4. drjim, they would send the Coast Guard out and shut down his platforms. However, launching from a platform at sea with only having to maintain an exclusion zone would probably make it a lot easier to obtain a launch license.

    5. I'm not sure if launching at sea makes it easier or not. I suspect not. When I was doing this, they FAA had very specific restrictions on our launch license. One I remember is we had to hold the Launch Platform within a 100' circle.

      We also were required to have a "Sea Turtle Lookout", and if any sea turtles were observed in the area, we had to hold the launch.

      And there's Notice to Airmen, Notice to Mariners, Collision Avoidance requirements, etc, etc, etc.

      I seriously doubt it's any "easier", but considering what he has to do to launch from Boca Chica, it might be less expensive!

  5. The latest, which I got from one of the webcamera guys, I think WAI, is that the FAA was peeved that SN8 was launched without clearance, and that the whole kerfluffle over that is going to end in new, more loose, quicker launch requirements.

    So Musk kicking them in the teeth may have a positive effect.

    1. I do hope the new FAA rocket launch rules do get to go in effect. The problem though is that they were developed under Trump and therefore automatically "bad". I can understand with the state of technology 50 plus years ago why the rules that are probably in effect now were created. The effects of a Saturn (any model) blowing up on the launch pad would be very impressive and dangerous. Or to have something like the Soviet N1 which did crash after launch. The problem is that Government rules are generally all or nothing with no gray area.

    2. Until all the upper management at the FAA get changed out, so far they're (the FAA) are 100% on streamlining the approval and testing processes.

      It's not just SpaceX that is affected. You have Boeing who wants to be able to schedule testing on a more quick approval process.

      And Virgin Galactic.

      And ULA.

      And all the other micro-rocket launch people out there.

      Better and quicker response from the FAA is a needful thing.